Matthew’s Gospel has always caused modern readers some consternation when they read the first chapter. Why is this long “genealogy” put here at the beginning of the first Gospel?
I prefer to first think of this list of names here in terms of what is clearly said in the first verse, Jesus is “the son of David, son of Abraham.” But genealogy might sound confusing. One version says, “This is the document of the origins of Jesus Christ.” I like that. It is clear and connects with me in a different way. Why?
The Bible is careful to connect events and persons from the history of God’s redemption. The entire Bible draws strength from a continuity of history and thus from the fidelity of God to his own promises. This is the key to this list, or document, of the origins of Jesus.
There are 42 names in this list. They are arranged into three series of 14 names each. It is quite obvious this list is not complete nor does Matthew mean it to be so. Why Abraham? He is the father of the faithful, of true believers. God promised to unite all the nations around his family. Jesus is also the son of David. Why? Because all Israel knew that from David would come the Savior of the world. This list includes the adoptive father of Jesus, Joseph. Among the Jews, this adoption was sufficient for Jesus to be considered, like Joseph, son of David. The list also includes four women.
All of this document of origins announces, rather discreetly, that Jesus came to save Sinners and to open the kingdom of Israel to the multitudes that would stream in from the pagan world. The Savior is is the fruit of the earth and the the flower of the chosen people (Isaiah 45:8). God led the Jews to a degree of human and religious maturity where the teaching and ministry of Jesus would take on it full meaning.
This document of the origins thus reminds us, especially during Advent, that we are in solidarity with Christ, the anointed One, the Messiah. We are in solidarity through distinctly human ties, thus through the history of Jewish families. This is the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the whole world.